Until recently, the shores of Zawiya, west of Tripoli, were the crossroads for much of Libya’s human trafficking.

But over the last few weeks, such trade has come to a standstill.

Arrivals to Italy from North Africa have declined by more than half from last year’s figures, with Reuters reporting on Monday that an armed group was preventing migrant boats from embarking from Zawiya.

Investigations by Middle East Eye reveal that the armed groups are receiving payoffs to stop the boats leaving Libya, in exchange for aid, aircraft hangars and large sums of money.

This area belongs to Libya only formally, but it has its non-written rules and its rules are in the hands of militias and several groups of armed gangs.”

– Yasin, local resident

A few weeks after Italy implemented a controversial code of conduct in the Mediterranean, the coast along Zawiya has fallen silent.

The agreement, signed by some international NGOs and boycotted by others, aims to regulate the rescue and transport of migrants by NGOs in the Mediterranean; one of the most controversial points of the code is the stipulation that Italian police be present on board NGO boats to investigate smuggling.